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Turkey Hunt Public Land: Hunting in Florida

June 7, 2010 by  
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Shane Simpson of provides this post about hunting Osceola’s on a special tag in Florida.

This past March, I had the special treat of chasing Osceola turkeys with the use of a Special Opportunity Turkey Hunt from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. These tags are designed to provide a high-quality, turkey hunting experience and are held on public land that only allow a limited number of hunters. This increases the chances to see, hear and harvest an adult gobbler while reducing hunter interference and increasing safety. How did I obtain this tag? Well, I had agreed to video another hunter who won the tag through the FWC’s lottery process. In order to video his hunt I needed to rearrange my schedule, per his request, and gladly did so. As it later turned out, he was not able to go and as a good will gesture, gave the tag to me. That’s right, he gave the tag to me and was able to do so because this particular Special Opportunity tag was transferable. As much as I wanted to use the tag to harvest my first Osceola, I decided instead to give the tag to my nephew, Preston. He would enjoy the hunt just as much, if not more, and doesn’t get near the chances to chase turkeys as I do. I gladly gave up, what some would consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hunt Osceola turkeys, opting instead for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to video a family member hunting Osceola turkeys. So in late March, I drove to South Carolina, picked up Preston, then continued to Florida to begin our hunt.

Missed Opportunity

Our first morning in Florida greeted us with cool temps, calm winds and clear skies, my favorite turkey hunting conditions. Shortly after arriving at our predetermined listening spot, a few owls started calling and instantly the woods filled with gobbles. Several were sounding off to the east, and before long, grew to at least 12 gobblers in all directions. I leaned over to Preston and whispered, “Sure are a lot of turkeys here! You excited?” He nodded his head and with a huge smile, turned to place his decoys among the palm trees and saw palmettos. Meanwhile, I started preparing my camera for the sights and sounds it was about to capture. Preston soon returned and sat down to my left and slightly forward in order to maximize his shot opportunities. Quietly we waited for the morning light to illuminate the woods and when the time was right, I instructed Preston to scratch out a few notes on his pot call. “Semi circles, semi circles”, I thought as if to will him into making the correct hen sounds. Two toms instantly responded less than 100 yards away and then a few more sounded off in the distant trees. We spent the next half hour exchanging conversation with the two toms before I decided to use the tactic of going silent. As we waited for their next gobbles, I rotated the camera toward Preston to capture the moment. He starred straight ahead, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the camera was now facing him. A big Osceola gobbler was on his mind and he knew that one could appear at any moment. I eventually turned the camera back toward the last gobbles and not a minute too soon. “I see one, I see one” Preston whispered. “Where is he? I don’t see him!” I said. Again Preston whispered, “He’s behind a tree!” “OK, I see him.” I said and proceeded to zoom in on our quarry. Everything was in place, Preston had a nice gobbler in his sights, I had the bird in focus and the camera’s red, record light was illuminated. We just needed the tom to move forward a few more steps so we could see his head and neck clearly. “Not going to happen”, and with that thought, the gobbler turned to walk away. “Shoot him, shoot him!” I whispered excitedly. Boom!…The gobbler flew straight up into the air and the moment his feet touched back down, he disappeared into the forest. “You missed!”, I said but Preston wasn’t so sure. After explaining that I’d seen the gobbler run off, the excitement, visible on Preston’s face a few seconds earlier, vanished as quickly as the gobbler had. Although upset at the miss, Preston couldn’t wait to get back out the next day and try again.

A Chance At Redemption

We woke to slightly cooler temperatures and a gentle breeze the second morning, but the skies remained clear. Hopefully the approaching front and thunderstorms, predicted later, wouldn’t impact the gobbling activity. I wanted Preston to be successful eliciting a gobble using the owl call that he’d practiced with the evening before. Preston has the ability to learn things rather quickly and the owl call was no exception. As the night eased into day, Preston went through his owl calling routine and by his second series of hoots, located a couple of toms. Just as the morning before, Preston placed his decoy out in front of us and then took up a position next to his cameraman, that would be me of course. It didn’t take long for fly down time to arrive and even less time for the birds to head off in the opposite direction. Being that patience is not one of my virtues, I decided rather quickly to try and get back on them. We gathered our gear and proceeded up the trail in the same direction as the gobblers. A hundred yards later we were stopped in our tracks by a nearby gobble and scrambled to find a suitable tree to sit against. Preston, now knowing just what to do, let loose a few hen calls then lifted his gun into position. Almost immediately a bird appeared on the trail and headed straight for the decoy but at 60 yards, stopped abruptly and peered our way. What was probably only a minute or two, seemed like an eternity. “Oh no! He must see something out of place. Is there a glare coming from the camera lens? Did he see one of us move?”, those thoughts and others were racing through my head when I heard it. Va-room!…and then again…Va-room! “Preston, I hear drumming!” “There’s one to my right!”, responded Preston and as I panned the camera to get a better view, a strutting tom slipped out of the brush and into gun range. The gobbler continued to put on an incredible display, advancing closer with every step. At a distance of 30 yards, the tom spotted the two of us against the tree and immediately broke out of strut. A few small branches were all that separated Preston from his prize and his chance at redemption. “Shoot him, shoot him!”, I said but no matter how much I urged Preston, he would not pull the trigger. The gobbler looked more and more like he was about to high tail it out of there and I again urged him to shoot. Not wanting to miss a second time, Preston continued to wait and just when I couldn’t take it anymore…Boom!

Want to know what happened next? Just go to the video page here at American-Hunter and select “Preston’s Florida Osceola” hunting video to see the conclusion!

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